Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Wish List

I've been thinking about video games that I loved when I was younger but for some reason or another the franchises died off. There are a few out there that only got one change and some had a sequel made and nothing else.

"The Wish List" will highlight the titles I would love to see the developer return to or revisit in some fashion down the line. And while I wanted to talk about Gunstar Heroes for the first column another game kept gnawing at the back of my mind. It kept reminding me just how much fun I had playing it. And it kept whispering that its a title that may help Square Enix get out of the Final Fantasy/Kingdom Hearts glut of garbage its been mired in. So lets talk about

 I can't believe that I've almost forgotten about this gem from my early teens. Much like any experience its turned into just memories of feelings and good times playing and replaying this game.

In ActRaiser you are playing god. Really. God. And you're people have all but forgotten about you because you've been hands off for so long but now its really bad for them and small amount of folk start asking for help. And you now are taking a direct hand in assisting.

The game itself is broken down into two distinct parts. First its a simcity-esque strategy game where you help purge the area as a cherub from assorted monsters coming out of spawn points on the map while using miracles to clean up the land and help the faithful rebuild the area.

Staring with your abandoned temple you work out and help the society blossom by helping improve housing, make farms, terraform the land into someplace more habitable. And once you build up enough of a following you are then able to advance to the second part of any stage....the side scrolling platforming hack and slash segment.

I can remember the first time I got to this part too. The SNES had a kinda gimmick called Mode-7 graphics. It was a pixel scaler that gave early look at scaling and rotation of objects on the screen before games became all polygon based and its standard. Back then it was mind blowing. Because the viewpoint is from the sky as you are plummeting towards the action level and it goes black as it hits the ground. It cuts to a statue of a knight that then animates and you begin the stage.

Depending on how well you did on the sim stage gives you extra health here and some powers too if I recall correctly. But man we these areas just cool. They showed off the graphic prowess of the SNES with its vibrant colors, layered backgrounds and some transparencies too. And the action was good as well. Fighting all sorts of monsters and the bosses were big in their own right. Just look at that centaur. I was awestruck how detailed it looked (back at that time) and even today I still think it looks great.

I also want to mention that the music was wonderful for this game too. The SNES had a sound processor that was far superior to Sega's and it showed here. The soundtrack is a orchestrated symphony score. Its big, bold and epic. And you couldn't get that on the Genesis. And this was a fairly early on SNES game too. A lot of love went into this game and it showed.

ActRaiser did get one sequel and I vaguely remember it. I know I played it but it didn't leave the impression on me that the first did. I miss this franchise. I miss the mixing of strategy world building sim and action. I miss being the paragon hero of the people. I miss the bold musical score. I miss the fact Enix made games like this and when Square consumed them all we've been getting are Final Fantasy games, Kingdom Hearts prequels and side stories and very few original titles worth talking about.

With all the prowess that Squeenix has when making those graphical masterpieces with confusing story lines and androgynous male characters I can only imagine what a new entry into this forgotten franchise would look like, play like and sound like today. It makes me angry and depressed at the same time. 

C'mon Square. Look at your forgotten franchises and bring back some of them to a new audience. The old audience would thank you as well.